Fournier Four-Point Game Leads Thunder Past Steelheads, 5-2
WICHITA, KS – Stefan Fournier has long established himself as a fan favorite in Wichita and his return to the Thunder has been a welcome addition. Sunday, he had his best game since returning, scoring a goal and adding assists on the first three tallies to lead the Wichita Thunder to a 5-2 victory over the Idaho Steelheads. Jay Dickman had a goal and two assists and Jake Theut was spectacular in net, stopping 46 shots. The Thunder are now 5-1-1 in the last seven games.
For the third straight game in this series, Wichita scored first, taking a 1-0 lead 12:18 into the contest. Fournier gained control of the puck behind the net. He passed it in front to Dickman, whose initial shot was saved by Jake Kupsky, but Dickman put in his own rebound for his 14th goal of the year.
The Steelheads dominated much of the second period, as the Thunder had two power-play opportunities but were unable to generate any offense. Idaho was controlling the play in the Thunder zone for much of the frame and were able to take the lead on a power-play goal at 14:37. Shawn McBride fed the puck across slot to Chase Zieky, who buried a one-timer by Theut for his 10th goal of the year.
It looked like this game would head to the second intermission tied at one, but Wichita scored on the power-play with 39 seconds left in the period to take a 2-1 lead. It took just five seconds to capitalize. Peter Crinella won the draw to Fournier, who passed it to Cam Clarke at the point. Clarke fired a shot that Crinella redirected in for his 14th goal of the season.
The Thunder held a one-goal advantage entering the final frame, but the third period has not been good to the team this season, and it looked like this game may get away when Frederic Letourneau scored 4:09 into the frame. Matt Stief took a shot from the point that Letourneau redirected inside the far post to tie the score at two.
The Steelheads continued to pressure the Thunder, taking 25 shots in the third, but it would be Wichita who added three goals over the final 15 minutes to earn the victory. The first came 1:41 after the Idaho goal. Fournier passed the puck up the boards to Carter Johnson, who carried the puck into the Steelheads end, moving around the defenseman and across the crease, tucking the puck around Kupsky to put the Thunder back on top. That was the 13th goal of the year for Johnson.
At 9:58, Wichita went on the power-play and capitalized for the second time in the contest. This time it took just seven seconds. Dickman got the puck, passing it to Clarke at the half-boards. He made a perfect feed cross ice to Fournier, who tucked it in for his third goal this season.
The Thunder added an empty-net goal with 1:38 left. Sean Allen blocked a shot attempt inside his own zone. The puck bounced off his shin guards and out to Michal Stinil. He led a 2-on-1 break through the neutral zone, dishing it to Stephen Johnson just before they reached the blueline. Johnson put the puck into the net for his fifth goal.
Clarke had two goals and Carter Johnson added a goal and an assist. Theut won his third straight game. Stief had two assists for Idaho.
The Thunder are off until Thursday when they begin a three-game series against the Rapid City Rush. It is a late morning game on Thursday as the puck drops at 11:35 Wichita time.
By Robert Pannier